Kimora Lee says RM413mil US wants from Tim Leissner is hers

NEW YORK: Kimora Lee, the former model and ex-wife of former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Tim Leissner, claims that shares worth about US$93mil (RM413mil) that he was ordered to forfeit as part of his 1MDB guilty plea actually belong to her.

Lee asked a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday to hold a hearing where she intends to establish she rightfully owns 892,732 shares in Celsius Holdings Inc., a fitness drink maker. She claims she purchased the shares with money she earned from her modeling career and her Baby Phat clothing line.

The shares were wrongly included in a March federal order requiring Leissner to surrender more than 3.3 million Celsius shares as proceeds of his crimes, Lee claims.

Leissner, Goldman Sach’s former Southeast Asia head, pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiring with financier Jho Low, the alleged mastermind of the sprawling fraud scheme, to bribe officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to facilitate bond deals. Low, who remains a fugitive, pocketed US$1.42bil from the fraud, the US has said.

"Lee has established that she is a bona fide purchaser for value of the Celsius shares,” she said in the filing. "Leissner did not contribute any funds to the purchase of the Celsius shares and did not own the Celsius shares. The fact that the Celsius shares were used as collateral for Leissner’s bond does not mean that there is a connection between Leissner’s offenses and those shares which were seized.”

Shares in the company traded at US$104.26 Friday in New York, making the 3.3 million shares worth more than US$344mil.

Leissner, who was the government’s star witness at a trial of his former subordinate, Roger Ng, was also ordered in March to surrender US$43.7mil in cash in addition to the shares.

Lee isn’t the only one eyeing the Celsius money. Ng sued Leissner in New York state court in November, alleging his ex-boss cheated him out of his investment in Celsius that is now worth at least US$130mil as well as stock in another company. According to the suit, Leissner engaged in a "concerted effort to steal” and pocketed Ng’s original US$1.25mil investment in Celsius, which has since grown in value enormously.

Late Friday, Ng also filed a motion with Brodie, arguing he’s the rightful owner of more than 1.45 million Celsius shares which Leissner forfeited to the US as proceeds of his fraud.

Ng, the only Goldman employee to go to trial over the sprawling global fraud, was convicted last year for his role in the 1MDB scandal. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is scheduled to begin his prison term in August.

After Ng left banking, he joined Celsius as managing director for Asia at the energy-drink company.

Lee and Leissner were married in 2014 but were already estranged when he testified against Ng. On the witness stand, Leissner admitted that he was a double bigamist, and was married to his ex-wife when he and Lee tied the knot. - Bloomberg

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